Tag: Uncategorized

Then And Now

It was an interesting experience, to sit on the stage of Markham Theatre today, eating lunch with various town luminaries and performers, learning about its 2012-2013 season and noting who was using a smartphone and who wasn’t. I couldn’t help but take pictures. Each table boasted a flag representing the nationality of upcoming performers; ironically or not, I’d been seated at the table boasting the American flag. The moment was a strange fusion of old and new loves.

I last performed on that stage in 1997, in Carol Shields’ Departures And Arrivals, donning a variety of roles and costumes. Though drama was an absolute passion back then (nay, a career path), I clearly remember that dreaded gremlin, stage fright, taking a firm icy grip during a monologue I had toward the end of the play on opening night. For a few awful seconds, I blanked out. It was mortifying.

Today, I looked down at the seats family and friends had occupied that night, and a flood of gratitude and relief washed over me. Gratitude at the patience of good people, and relief at changing my career trajectory after many bumps and false starts. Sometimes, it’s good to step out of the spotlight.

This desire for privacy coincides with a dawning reluctance over the past months at revealing too much personal information on here, and on other online spots. That may be owing to the fact that I’m moving deeper into the professional journo-world, and don’t care to splash around personal details, or it may be a distaste for over-sharing, a trend that doesn’t seem likely to wane in internet culture, where “heels and meals,” as a recent interviewee put it, rule the day. I don’t hate the trend; I just don’t happen to think I fit into it – and truth be told, don’t want to. I’d rather people get a small taste of me through my writing (and choice of coverage), but enjoy a full meal when they meet me in-person. I’m an unabashed sensualist at the end of the day, and I’d sooner meet someone over a glass of wine, if it’s possible; I’m fully cognizant that isn’t always possible, but when I’m out in the world, there’s always a new person to meet, always a new conversation to be had. I don’t want to miss those moments.

Right now I’m reconsidering the purpose of this blog, and am thinking of making it a space more for short, punchy observations – artistic, political, social, cultural – and for inviting more active commentary and feedback. Yes, I’m still going to keep my newsy (/sassy) Tumblr blog, and I’m active on Twitter and Facebook too – but really, I want readers to go to Digital Journal to read my formal work. I hope that isn’t too much to ask. It’s time for me to step off the proverbial stage of personal blogging, and move into the backstage realm, and, we hope, on to after-party to mix and mingle. The diva has exited the stage; she’s still around, though, if you want to look for her.

“A blue one who can’t accept the green one”

Before posting the second half of my interview with Malcolm (in the middle) x, I wanted to address the issue of “ordinary” vs “elite”, and the way culture is being used as a divisive wedge issue during this election.

I was raised by a single mother in the suburbs. As a kid, my mom would take me (in the wood-paneled station wagon) down to the then-O’Keefe Centre, where, for two or three hours, she’d marvel at the sounds of Verdi, Puccini, Mozart et al, and I’d try to figure out what the heck was going on. I’d fall asleep in the car on the way home, but come the next morning, I would ask her a million questions about what I’d seen the night before, at the opera. One of my favourite memories is seeing Carmen for the first time; I couldn’t stop singing the songs (with my own words) once I’d heard Bizet‘s crazily-beautiful music. There was never a debate about whether it was “doing me good” or if I, as a child, was engaging in “elite” activity; my mom was sharing something with me that she loved. Period.

Once the Toronto Symphony Orchestra moved into the then-newly-built Roy Thompson Hall, there was yet another occasion to get into the station wagon (okay, by then it was a Crown Victoria). My mom had worried that I wouldn’t be able to see in the TSO’s old digs, Massey Hall. I remember looking over the balcony onto the actual stage during my first visit, entranced. The first time I heard Beethoven in a live setting, I thought I’d been hit over the head -but in a really, really good way. Saturday afternoons our house was filled with the sounds of the Met, live on Radio Two. When the Treasures of Tutankhamen visited the ROM from Cairo in the late 70s, we waited in the long line that snaked down University Avenue, eating popsicles and drawing. Again, it wasn’t so much a case of, “this is good for you“, but was something she was interested in and something she wanted to share with her child.

Does this mean we didn’t do so-called “normal” things? Not at all. We still went to movies (and, with the advent of the new-VCR technology, rented them), watched The Flintstones and Three’s Company, ate KD, played board games, and jumped rope. I got a kid’s baking book which I loved, took piano lessons, went bowling, and rode my bike to the library. We went to church (it happened to be very music-oriented) and ordered pizza Friday nights. Video games and MuchMusic came along, and kids like me thought they were the coolest things ever.

My love for theatre probably began a friend of my mum’s who was a regular attendee (and subsequent supporter) of the Stratford Festival. I remember wonderful summer weekends filled with the sounds of Gilbert and Sullivan at the Avon Theatre. One of my favourite memories is setting Doug Chamberlain in The Gondoliers, and Nicholas Pennell in… well, any and everything. It may have been Nicholas who got me interested in seeing Shakespeare, in fact. I remember loving his voice, and his warm onstage presence. Years later, I’d learn that he’d chosen to stay in Canada, with the Festival. It struck me as sort of cool. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead was the first heady piece of theatre I was exposed to, and my mum was worried I’d be bored. But I clearly recall being entranced by the language -its rhythm, its cleverness, its flow -and the wonderful performances. I couldn’t have been more than 10.

There are so many other things I could mention, but, in the interests of brevity, I’ll just say this: “ordinary” means many different things to many different people. My single mother raised me to culture -to love it, to live it, to share it. “Ordinary”, for me as a kid, meant a lot of driving, a lot of sleeping in the backseat, and sitting through a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Culture is not something that divides, but something that connects. It’s not for a “niche”; it’s for everyone. I’m ordinary, I’m Canadian, and I’m eternally grateful.

Ideas and Inspiration


Lots of ideas floating around this week.

The passing of longtime Stratford Fest Artistic Director Richard Monette got me thinking -about the nature of art, theatre, and audiences; what with all the arguments back and forth about populism and arts funding, his passing seems, past its sad reality, to be a significant symbol of that fiery debate currently happening online right now.

The notions of the importance to the arts in Canada, and its role in our lives, is also looming large. In my neighbourhood, gas prices are a lot more important to most people than questions of a cultural or artistic nature.

The artists involved with the film festival got involved, taking advantage of the media presence in Toronto to put on a press conference decrying the upcoming arts cuts; it was a proud moment, but I was dismayed at how little coverage it seemed to receive locally. “Is there anyone out there?“, to quote a friend. It makes me wonder.

I’m in the process of organizing artists for upcoming PlayAnon features; if you are an artist with something to say about the current cultural climate in Canada, please write. I would love to hear from you.

Yada Yada

The threatened arts cuts seem to produce some passionate feelings -both for and against.

Over at my Arts and Thoughts blog, I’ve been engaged in an online debate with a working artist. Without posting the entire thing (which you can read here), I’m publishing snippets to promote discussion.

My online artist-acquaintance expressed his frustration with other Canadian artists, saying he’s “tired of (them) making themselves out to be victims of the gov’t..time to stand up and join the jungle…”. I expressed the idea that I don’t think most artists feel victimized, so much as their work is, and the idea that most artists are, to use his term, already “in the jungle”; this brought the following comment:

Quite honestly I think the Canada Council should be abolished altogether. Artists should be no different than mechanics or lawyers….make a living or do something else…or as I and many do….Do something else as well….But stop crying starving artist expecting the gov’t to bail you…it’s pathetic….

Expressing my feeling that I don’t think art should be utilitarian, the response came again:

Oh but it is very much a trade, at one time it was taught as a trade with internship, now anyone who can dig up the tuition at OCAD or afford the rental of a gallery wall can call themselves an artist. It is time to cull the herd…..I will never believe in gov’t handouts as a viable way of supporting the arts. I much prefer the American model of private foundations. They tend to be far more selective….

What do you think? Should artists be treated the same as lawyers and mechanics? Should their work be held to the same standards as other national economic engines? And is it time to “cull the herd”?

Any and all comments are welcome, from every side of this issue. The more we talk, the more we understand. Intransigence from any angle can’t be a good thing right now.

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